Police will a have saliva test for cannabis impairment

Gord Fortin
Lakeside Leader

The Slave Lake RCMP confirms that there will be some training and testing available to address concerns stemming from the legalization of marijuana on the horizon.
Staff Sgt. John Spaans spoke briefly about the upcoming legalization of marijuana during a drug information session on Dec. 7 at Roland Michener High School. The topic came up during the question portion of the RCMP presentation.
Spaans explained that at this point nothing has changed. That said, the police do have a tool to determine the level of inebriation. It is a saliva test. Police would take a swab of the tongue or the cheek inside the mouth.
The procedure measures the tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) levels in the saliva. THC is the substance in marijuana that gets you high.
Spaans does not know what the legal THC limit will be. That part of the law has not been worked out yet.
“Because the law is not finalized yet, we don’t know what the limit will be,” he said.
Spaans hopes to have a few members of his detachment trained. He said there are a number of RCMP members trained across the province on drug behavioral recognition and he is looking into this training as well.
The training allows police to recognize specific physical conditions of impairment. Some of the observations the experts will look for are the state of someone’s pupils or if their skin is flushed. They can also see if someone can stand on one leg.
“There is a whole gamut of tests that these drug recognition experts will run somebody through,” Spaans said.
Through those methods, the expert can identify someone if someone is under the influence of marijuana, heroin, fentanyl as well as other drugs. Spaans explained that there is an added benefit to having this knowledge. A police officer who has this training is considered an expert and thus can provide testimony in court.
The program is expensive and hard to get. Spaans said this is why there is no local expert. The reason it is hard to get is because the only way to learn the process is to actually observe first hand someone who is under the influence of the specific substance.
“The only way to test or learn when somebody is high or under the influence is to see somebody in action,” he said.
That is difficult because in Canada the laws state that you cannot make someone high on drugs. Spaans said in the U.S. the laws are different and some of the experts go to Florida for their training.

Staff Sgt. John Spaans

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